The Islamic Perspective on Creation: Part 1

Thank you to Imam Mustapha Elturk

Everything God creates is amazing. The beautiful universe with its brilliant stars and galaxies to mother earth and the beautiful meadows, mountains, rivers, birds and all it contains point toward a magnificent Maker. There is one creation, however, that stands out from all His creation, MAN. One may say man is the masterpiece of God’s creation for two main reasons. One, of the countless creatures, humans are the only ones to receive the divine spark from God’s very own essence. And two, humans are the only creatures that have the intellectual ability that would enable them to transcend the limitations of physical/material existence.

Unraveling the Mystery of God’s Magnificent Creation

Shah Waliullah Dehlwi, a Muslim theologian of the 18th century (1703–1762 CE), elucidates on God’s actions. He concludes that God’s basic actions are three. ‘Ibada’, Khalq and Tadbir.

The first act may be called, ‘Ibda’, i.e. creating something from absolutely nothing, creatio ex nihilo, meaning “creation out of nothing.”

God’s first act is to bring into existence a creation out of nothingness and the basis of His creation is the command Be (Kun). “He is the Originator (Badi’) of the heavens and the earth, and when He decrees something, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is” (al-Baqarah, 2:117). The process of creation in the world of command takes no time at all. In other words, things happen instantaneously.

The second act of God is Khalq or Creation. This type of creation is to create something out of something. The Latin term is creatio ex materia, creation out of some pre-existent matter. For example, humans were created from clay.

Unlike the “world of command” where time is of no essence, in the “world of creation” or the “world of matter,” time is always a factor in the process of creation. “Verily, Your Lord is God who created the heavens and earth in six days” (Yunus, 10:3). According to the Qur’an, each day with God may correspond to either 1000 or 50,000 years of our calculation or more. Day is normally used in the Qur’an to denote a fixed duration or lapsed time.

The third act of God is Tadbir, controlling and directing or governing both worlds. “Verily, Your Lord is God who created the heavens and earth in six days then established Himself on the Throne, governing everything” (Yunus, 10:3).

The Qur’an makes a clear distinction between the two worlds. “His is the creation and His is the command (al-A’raf, 7:54)”. Both worlds, the world of command as well as the world of matter belong to Him.

The human spirits belong to the “world of command.” When the Prophet (SAW) was confronted with the question concerning the nature of the spirit (ruh), God would reveal, “Say, ‘The Spirit is from the command of my Lord, and (you cannot understand its nature, O people, since) you have been granted very little of (real) knowledge’” (al-Isra’, 17:85).

Science and technology have undoubtedly helped man unravel the mysteries of our world, the universe and living creatures. However, it would be impossible for scientists to be able to penetrate the supernatural domain and unravel the mysteries of the world of command. The true knowledge of the supernatural realm and unseen realities can only be conveyed to us through prophets and apostles of God who go through supernatural experiences i.e. the agency of divine revelation.

The real creation started with the one command of God “Be, Kun” in the world of command. It is by this command the spirits of past, present and future human souls, have all come into existence simultaneously. According to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, narrated by his wife Aisha, they were assembled like conscripted soldiers. What is referred to here is the beginning of creation in the realm of the unseen before the creation of anything including Adam.

While assembled before their Lord, God took a firm covenant from all the spirits. “And (mention O Prophet), when your Lord took out the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them testify against themselves, (He said,) ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Indeed, we bear witness.’ Lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were not aware of this’” (al-A’raf, 7:172).

The verse describes the event of the great heavenly covenant which the Creator, God, made with all His created spiritual beings before they took on the human form.

All spirits were then put on hold or to sleep. The Qur’an calls this (the first) death. “Blessed be He in whose hand is the dominion (of the heavens and earth); who has power over all things; who created death and life that He may test you (to see) who among you is best in conduct. And He is the Almighty, the Forgiving” (al-Mulk, 67:1,2).

In part two we shall learn how God created Adam and his offspring and how the spirit is imbued into the body.